Senator Questions Co-Op Plan, Wants More Facts

5192102A liberal senator is asking a government agency for more facts about how cooperatives work, expressing doubts about whether creating health care cooperatives would have a positive impact for Americans.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter Thursday to the Government Accountability Office asking for "detailed information about state and federal oversight of cooperatives in order to more accurately inform the discussion about reforming our nation's health care system." He lamented the dearth of information available about cooperatives and gave evidence of why he was concerned health care cooperatives could be inadvisable.

As a proponent for a government-sponsored health insurance option, or "public plan," Rockefeller has expressed his discontent for the negotiations taking place exclusively among six of his fellow Finance Committee members. The small group recently announced progress on a bill that would eventually insure 95 percent of Americans by establishing non-profit health care cooperatives, rather than through a public option.

In his letter, Rockefeller called the public option "one of the most important issues of the national health care reform debate."

The senator pointed out that a hearing in the House of Representatives about a specific cooperative in Texas "uncovered many questionable practices... which may also be common practice for many other cooperatives around the country."

Rockefeller asked the GAO for more information regarding the legal rights members of health-related cooperatives, as well as information regarding any licensure requirements that may be in place for co-ops or consumer protection requirements. He also asked for more information about the state and federal regulatory structures for cooperative business arrangements, as well as copies of any reports the GAO may have produced on cooperatives. He asked for a response to the letter no later than August 5.